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Message Larry Beinhart
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In order to be READY ON DAY ONE, as both Hillary Clinton and John McCain claim they will be, you have to be ready a long time before that. You have to come in with a plan. You have to come with a good organization. You have to understand the issues and problems and have some ideas of how to deal with them.

The American campaign process, long, grueling, insanely expensive, with the media jumping on bizarre trivia like flies on garbage, while ignoring the true nutrition of substantive debates, is widely criticized. But what the campaigns do is force the candidates to show how they conduct themselves under pressure. Their ability to plan. To organize. To build an organization. To raise money. To spend it effectively or badly. To strategize. To communicate through the media to the public. To deal with attacks and unexpected surprises.

Hillary Clinton entered the race with the majority of the big time connections and huge sums of money. She hired the most expensive and well placed operators and consultants that Democratic money could buy. The race was hers - to win or to lose.But, apparently, she didn't have a plan. Her organization gave her bad advice. (Or if they gave her good advice, she didn't take it.) Her organization was top heavy. She came in loaded with money. But she spent it less effectively than her opponent did.

Then, McCain outdid her in fund raising.

She had a strategy of going after the big states. Apparently, she and her team imagined that the system was winner take all, like the national elections with the electoral college, and failed to understand proportional representation. It was the wrong strategy, one that neglected reality.

Once she was under pressure, she began to behave badly. She told stories like the one about being under attack in Bosnia. She tried to cheat, insisting that the Florida and Michigan delegates be counted, even though the rules had said they couldn't be and she hadn't complained when the ruling was made.

She was NOT READY on DAY ONE of the CAMPAIGN. We should expect that she will NOT BE READY on DAY ONE of the PRESIDENCY.

Her record in government tells us much the same thing. I called her Senate office and asked, "Can you tell me what Hillary Clinton has achieved as Senator."

The answer was, "Go to our website."

I said, "Been there. Didn't find anything substantive. She's my senator. Can't you tell me?"

The staffer hung up. (No, I'm not basing my analysis on one rude staffer. This was just symptomatic of a much longer research effort.) Which leaves me on my own to figure out how to judge her record in office (and semi-office as first lady.).

Ms. Clinton faced two big tests.The first was health care. Bill Clinton ran on a platform that called for national health. When he was elected he turned the program over to her. She was to study it (as opposed to have been ready with one on day one), come up with a plan, and then present it.She did the planning in secret. Even the names of the members of the task force were kept secret, Dick Cheney style. This, rightly, offended many people in the field. When the proposal was finally released, it was over 1,000 pages long and madly complex. That insured that no one could read it. Except corporations and lobbyists determined to oppose it and who could afford to pay professionals to go through it.

Wikipedia describes the plan this way, "the core element ... was an enforced mandate for employers to provide health insurance coverage to all of their employees through competitive but closely-regulated health maintenance organizations (HMOs)."

In sum, it combined the worst of all possible worlds. It went through insurance companies, thereby insuring that it was the most expensive method. It relied on regulations to control costs, thereby creating maximum government bureaucracy. It pushed HMOs, which we now know from experience to be extremely problematic. It went through employers, making them less competitive in the international market.

Finally, she did not prepare for the industry reaction, the lobbyists and the advertising campaign against her.

Hillary Clinton WAS NOT READY and she set the sensible idea of national health back by at least twenty years.

The second big test was the vote on the Iraq War. She did not read the national intelligence estimate before she voted.

It was possible to figure out that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with Al Qaeda, that he didn't have weapons of mass destruction and that the post war occupation would be a quagmire without access to "secret" government documents. But she didn't figure that out. Neither - and this is important - did her staff. She, and they, were conventional Washington insiders and accepted the conventional wisdom. When it came time to run for president, she staffed her campaign with similar people, and if she is president, we should expect them to trundle along.

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LARRY BEINHART is the author of SALVATION BOULEVARD,  a major motion picture with Pierce Brosnan, Greg Kinnear, Jennifer Connelly, Marissa Tomei, Ed Harris, and Jim Gaffigan, WAG THE DOG, The LibrarianFog Facts: Searching for Truth in the Land of Spin  and HOW TO WRITE A (more...)

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